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The truffle: a true Tuscan specialty

A precious mushroom with an unforgettable scent

The truffle is a special mushroom of the Tuber kind, which grows spontaneously thanks to the symbiotic relationship that it is able to create with some plants such as oaks, willows, poplars and holm oaks. For its strong, distinctive aroma, this mushroom is a particularly valuable ingredient: hunting for truffles in Tuscany, not surprisingly, has become a real business that had to be governed by strict rules. Four are the most common species in this region: the precious white truffle, also called trifola or tartufa is the most sought after: extremely digestible, so much that it is often eaten raw, is characterized by a yellow and smooth skin, a clear pulp and a strong scent. The black truffle, much less valuable than the white one, has a yellow and smooth rind but its flesh is black, and has a more delicate scent. This is followed by the marzuolo truffle or bianchetto, with its white peel and pulp and the summer truffle or scorzone, with its black rind and yellowish pulp.

Essential information for anyone who wants to try their hand in the search for truffles

It should be first noted that this activity is allowed in all uncultivated land and forests, while it is reserved in the controlled and cultivated truffle grounds. The aid of a specially trained dog, able to intercept the scent emitted by the mushrooms which have reached maturity is absolutely essential for the search of truffles. Small, short haired dogs, but with broad and strong chest, are particularly suitable. It’s also naturally important to be aware of the regulations: the regional law states that the search should only take place in certain periods of the year and they it’s not allowed to harvest immature truffles which, being close to the earth surface, could be easily spotted. Truffles can not be harvested when the soil is wet, and not by hoeing: it’s necessary to use a trained dog and a special tool to open the hole which, in any case, must be commensurate with the size of the mushroom. Also,  spoiled truffles must be buried to allow the spread of spores. Those who intend to become truggle hunters must obtain the proper documents, issued by the Province after passing an exam, and also an authorization card issued by the municipality of residence, valid for 5 years, which allows the holder to search and harvest truffles throughout the national territory.

Truffle hunting in Siena: what are the best areas?

The truffle is present throughout the province of Siena and in particular in the Crete Senesi area: this area is the most suitable environment for the white truffle, the precious ingredient of many typical dishes of the Tuscan culinary tradition. The Crete Senesi are characterized by clay hills and small forests: in the heart of this area is San Giovanni d’Asso, a famous medieval village due to its market fairs dedicated to buying and selling truffles and due to being home of the characteristic Truffle Museum. Montagnola Senese is instead the most suitable location for the search of the black truffle, found in sparse and sunny forests and on limestone soils. Finally, in Val d’Elsa and Val d’Arbia it’s possible to find the white truffle, present in particular in the ditches at the bottom of the valley, and the marzuolo truffles.